We certainly aren’t complaining about the current state of our beloved dirtbiking sport. From Yamaha’s recent ramping up to its largest stable of off-road and motocross models in the company’s 61-year history to the revival of Husqvarna to the emergence of Beta as a unique and exotic alternative brand, the sport is alive and healthy.
But alas, there was a time when even more manufacturers enjoyed their day in the sun, even if it was only for a brief moment. Some succumbed to market forces while others failed to change with the times, and still others dipped a toe in the dirtbike pool only to change their mind and pull it right back out again.
Certain marques will always have pull, however, and if ever there were going to be a brand or brands to make a comeback with modern machines bearing old-school names, these are the ones we wouldn’t mind seeing.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Czechoslovakian manugfacturer CZ (short for Česká zbrojovka) was to Husqvarna as Honda is to Yamaha, engaged in an intense battle for the top of the dirtbike market. With Joel Robert and Victor Arbekov, CZ took the fight to Husky’s Torsten Hallman in the FIM 250cc Motocross World Championship during the 1960s, with Robert winning three titles and Arbekov adding another against Hallman’s three titles.
CZs weren’t the most beautiful machines on the track, but they developed a reputation for being fast, good-handling and stone reliable. But like other manufacturers in its heyday, CZ simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid pace of technology into the 1970s and ‘80s. So while its Japanese and European competition developed rising-rate single-shock rear suspensions and more modern liquid-cooled engines, CZs trudged on with the same air-cooled engine and basically the same chassis design with ever-longer front and rear suspension—until the 1990s!
CZ stopped producing motorcycles in 1997. Fans of the brand still long for it to make comeback today.